40 Years In…My Purpose & Pain

There is so much I could say, in the blank space, with cursor blinking, waiting to be filled. I’ve sat here many times before today, staring, with thoughts racing, too much to begin.img_5872I was honestly surprised…and not…to see the tab at the top of this page stating in all caps that I have 87 Drafts. Eighty-Seven works in progress. How silly. Knowing that each time I release my truth from the inside out, it unlocks a new aspect of freedom that I didn’t know was there. And yet, if I think about it too long, I won’t hit “Publish” on this one either.

jcp-2016-croppedSo…For today, let’s dive in before I convince myself to “Draft” it.

In the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, I’ve thought a lot, maybe too much, about the purpose and pain through my first 40 years on this earth. While I genuinely hope this helps someone reading, it is as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s.

My journey has not been one of ease, though it has been better than many, and more privileged than most.

The List…jcp-2016-5869

  1. Trust can take years to build and moments to destroy.
  2. Happiness can be bought (temporarily) and then lost, while true joy is internal and untouchable by outside forces.
  3. Grace is one of the most priceless and underserved gifts. Though freely given, we must receive and embrace it before it can manifest in our lives.
  4. Intuition is absolutely real and divinely instilled.
  5. The ability to forgive is key to authentic beautyNothing will age you faster than resentment.
  6. A steller hairstylist is a must. Once you find said stylist, tip well.
  7. Anger rots your inner being before ever showing up at surface level.
  8. Fear only leads to greater fear.
  9. Prayer works.
  10. When searching for an answer, love almost always fills the gap.
  11. It’s about “who” not “what” you know. (This applies to everything.)
  12. Baby wipes are essential for life. They remove crayon from a painted surface, that unidentified sticky residue just beneath a child’s car seat that’s been there for God only knows how long, mascara, lip stain, mud on wedges…etc., etc.
  13. Smiling more will inevitably lift one’s own spirit while providing warmth to the stranger passing by.
  14. It’s true, you cannot out-exercise your fork.
  15. We never see our true-self clearer, nor exert our need for a Savior more, than during times of trial.
  16. Failure is not optional, it’s necessary.
  17. Lessons will either shape you or break you.
  18. People do not control your destiny.
  19. God is not mad at you.
  20. Sunscreen actually is important.
  21. If you have one true friend you can trust with your weirdness, you are richly blessed.
  22. There is a deep human longing in us all to be fully known and accepted anyway.
  23. Death is not the end. It’s the transition.
  24. Grief is unpredictable.
  25. No matter the color of our skin, just below that thin layer, we all look the same.
  26. Generosity is key to contentment.
  27. Everything (really is) going to be okay (eventually).
  28. We don’t have to share the same DNA to be family.
  29. Miracles still happen.
  30. Everything we say and do begin with a thought.
  31. Being an adult can be really hard.
  32. We can decide, at any given moment, to change direction.
  33. There is no excuse to be unkind (to anyone) (ever).
  34. Gratitude changes things.
  35. We remember moments.
  36. God created each one of us with great intention and purpose.
  37. The most sacred space of witness is during birth and death.
  38. If we could truly grasp our worth, nothing would have the ability to intimidate or have a stronghold in our lives.
  39. Don’t put earthly limits on a heavenly God.
  40. Time goes by so quickly.

1. We don’t have to be afraid.
2. Everyone is important to someone.
3. Labels were never meant for people.
4. Sex doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
5. Right and wrong is relative.

So there ya go. With hundreds more to be added at another time. As I live out this first year in my 4th decade of life, what would you add?



When the Siren Sounds

Station 21 Firehouse The Atlanta Fire Department’s Station 21, offers a variety of services beyond firefighting and fire rescue. Citizens can have their blood pressure checked and obtain and learn to install child car seats, water conservation kits and fire alarms. The station also serves as a safe spot for domestic violence victims. Station 21 has a proud history, dating back to the 1940’s.

IMG_9491However, it isn’t for any of these reasons that I was first introduced to the men. For the last 3 years, they have faithfully come and shared with the Preschoolers where my son attends. There are only a few children in each class, but that doesn’t deter them. They show up and run through a demonstration of fire safety and first aid just as they would to a packed auditorium. The Chief even attends and facilitates the talk.IMG_9436

I am so grateful to each one of them for investing in the lives of these little ones. Each little IMG_9538boy now wants to “fight fire.” These guys are hero’s in our community. I would be lying if I said that I do something for them on a consistent basis. I think about it often, but rarely act on it. I plan to do better going forward.

For anyone who has schooled aged children, I cannot recommend this enough. They walk through each step of putting on their suit. All while talking to the children in an effort to diminish fear of the mask and oxygen tank.IMG_9544IMG_9550IMG_9553IMG_9554IMG_9556IMG_9558After he’s suited up and ready, the children are allowed to touch the mask, suit, helmet, while he continues talking to them, explaining what each piece is and why it is important.
IMG_9559IMG_9561IMG_9592IMG_9587This is so helpful in the case of an emergency. The children are learning not to be afraid of a rescue worker trying to help them.

At one point Rogers’ gear was sitting unattended by the truck.IMG_9466
Any time I see a firefighter’s helmet, a worn American flag, or hear the sound of their personal distress signal, I am instantly taken back to 9/11. All of those who were lost. The days of multiple distress signal units being heard from the rubble. It’s haunting.

To think that the same men and women who are saving people’s lives everyday would take time out to come share with us and take pictures with the children, is humbling and so incredibly appreciated.

When we took the boys to the station to deliver a thank you from the preschool children, the men were more than accommodating. They showed us around the station, let the boys take a picture with them and even slid down the pole. It is a memory that will remain at the forefront of my boys minds for a very long time.

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Who in your community is serving fearlessly to protect those you love? What can you do to appreciate them and their daily sacrifice?

Where is God now?

How could I ever look at anything and ask, “Where’s God?!” All I have to do is look out my window. I can see God everywhere, in everything.
But I have been in that place. More than once. Spiritual desolation where God is nowhere to be found. That corner of hell with gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

That place where a young mother is diagnosed with cancer and dies less than a year later leaving a husband and two young children that she worked so hard to have.

The place where baby’s who are “incompatible with life” are carried full-term, the mother’s belly sliced open to give baby life and after a few short days out of the womb the mother is left with memories, photos and a wound far greater than the one from the blade of the scalpel.

The place where ends don’t meet.

There’s no happily ever after.

Where regret is a constant companion and depression is the norm.

Where one begins to doubt heaven and the existence of a God at all.

What kind of God would take the life of a 17-year-old girl with all the promise in the world, one beautiful day after a small town football game? Her mother recalls her saying, “It’s the most beautiful day! I don’t remember a day quite like it?” That was one of the last things she heard her daughter say.

Who wants to know a God that watches two small children lay flowers on their mother’s grave and ask their daddy night after night, “Where’s mommy?”

If God is so good wouldn’t he grant the wish of the young wife who has cried herself to sleep for the last 5 years when the pregnancy test is negative…again.

What about the children who are sold into a world of sex and abuse. Being promised to the dirtiest of men who use them up and throw them away when they’re finished. Surely God doesn’t see or hear their whimper for help. How could he and not do anything about it?!

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, without a doubt in my mind, is that God is good…all the time…even when it doesn’t feel like it. I have crouched, head in hands, digging nails into my scalp, hoping the pain would cure my numbness.

I have been in my corner of self-inflicted hell with seemingly no way out while making promise after promise to my Creator of what I would abstain from if only he would get me out of the current circumstances and save me from myself.I have committed heinous acts thought to push me far beyond forgiveness.

Here is what I know. The same God who calmed the sea when he told Peter to walk out on the water to him, calms my heart when I don’t understand his plan. Just like Peter, when I take my eyes off of him, I sink into the very thing I think capable of overtaking me.

I want to have faith. I do. I want to see every situation through the eyes of a just and loving God with a plan far greater than my own…but more times than not, I don’t. Half the time I shake my fist to the heavens while the other half I lay face down on the floor, arms out, palms open, “Thy will be done, Lord. Not my will, but thine.

I don’t understand his ways. Why should I? I was never promised full disclosure. If I were granted understanding, would there be a need for faith? What would it really change?

He is a God who gives and takes away.

His love endures forever and ever.

I believe.

The only other option is the opposite of hope. A life of uncertainty, waiting for the next “thing” to happen. Asking myself when atrocities occur what I could have done to prevent it, when none of it is within the realm of my control, nor would I want it to be.

God is God and I am not.
All knowing.
All seeing.
All wise.
The same yesterday, today and forever.

There is one thing I do have control over.
The choices I make.
In this moment,
I choose faith.
I choose not knowing the whole story, but trusting that it will play out as it should.
I choose joy.
I choose grace and mercy.
I choose to see people as God with skin on.
I choose life.
I choose Christ.
I choose freedom.
I choose trust.
I choose forgiveness.

I choose to go out on my back porch, take in beauty that is far too majestic to capture, inhale cleansing breaths through my nose and into every cell in my body, all that is good, all that is well, all that is pure and healing. While exhaling the “what if?” “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?” I choose the something far greater awaiting me, if I choose to believe.

1-Minute Meditation: Change

Today, this week, this month, I am focusing on change. Acting now and not waiting around for someone else to do things that are right in front of me. You can too. All it takes is a step forward. There are seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them. It’s time to act, to speak up, to move. It’s time for change.
Need More than a Minute?:
1-Minute Meditation: Faith
1-Minute Meditation: Everything
1-Minute Meditation: Choice
1-Minute Meditation: Jesus
1-Minute Meditation: Affirmation
1-Minute Meditation: Fear
1-Minute Meditation: Awareness
1-Minute Meditation: Merton Prayer
1-Minute Meditation:
1-Minute Meditation:

Just like that, a Mother is born

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.
She never existed before.
The woman existed, but the mother, never.
A mother is something absolutely new.”

I remember that moment when the first cries were heard and the rush of tasks began to care for a newly born baby. The room seemed to spin around the delivery table where I was still lying. Life would never be the same.

The part one might not know about “giving birth” more than once is that the experience is never like that of the other. I went in feeling as if I had never done it before with each of my children. It’s the strangest and most wonderful thing.

We then take the baby home and do the best we can with what we have to 1. Keep them alive 2. Shower more than once a week and 3. Resemble some semblance of sanity.

As they begin to grow we encourage them to start talking by sounding out words and making ridiculous faces. We motivate them to walk by dangling things just beyond their reach. We urge them to hold a spoon in their chubby little hand and feed themselves, all the while entertained by the fact that more of it is on their face and the surrounding area than in their mouth.

And then the day comes, I can’t tell you exactly when, we start shhh-ing them and telling them to “be still.” We scold them for smacking, avoiding their napkin and dropping food on the floor while not “leaning over their plate.” Weird, right?

Maybe not? If you think about it, it’s just how life evolves. In recovery we compare many of our milestones to that of a child. And we celebrate when we reach them as if celebrating a child’s firsts. It’s crucial for our continued momentum.

Today, Andy Stanley is wrapping up a series called Future Family. I have to be honest, I’m rather sad about it. Each week I have walked away with something applicable that I could start doing. Each week at the close of his message I have desired to be a better wife and mother. Each week I have gained knowledge that I will pass on to my children and hopefully their children. Do you know how huge that is?!

For this girl, who was a mother before I had even figured out how to solely take care of myself and who has made more mistakes than I care to mention, to have someone come alongside me and “teach” instead of condemning me is HUGE.

I’m the girl who learns by trial and error so to find something that works without making a lot of messes beforehand is invaluable to me.

Being a mother is hard. It’s wonderful too, but let’s be honest, that perspective usually comes (especially in the early years) when our little one is sleeping. I depend far too heavily on caffeine most days. Not a day goes by that I don’t have to ask one or more of my children to “please forgive me.” I raise my voice too much, I loathe dusting, I don’t “play” enough, at times I feed my children cereal for dinner, I am completely unorganized and I am incredibly selfish. BUT, if you ask my children if I love them, they would say “Yes.” If you ask them if they know who God is, they would say “Yes.” If you ask them if their mommy and daddy love each other, they would say “Yes.” Those three truths are of the utmost importance to me.

So when I have a conversation with my 14-year-old about some really hard “stuff” that I, personally do not think she should have to worry about yet and I hang up the phone feeling like I know nothing at all. I can ask myself, “Does she know that I love her?” Yes. “Does she know that I want what’s best for her?” Yes. “Does she have her own personal relationship with the God of her understanding?” Yes. “Does He have a plan and a purpose for her life?” Yes.

I don’t know why this topic is on the forefront of my mind? If for no other reason, maybe it’s to encourage you, as a parent, to cut yourself some slack. If you’re a total slacker, maybe it’s to tell you to step it up. What I know for sure is that, my children are a gift and that it’s okay that it’s difficult.

Sandra Stanley said something in the message last week (when accompanying Andy on stage) that I will never forget as it refreshed my perspective on parenting. She said, “The days feel long but the years are short.” Realizing that for me, right now, there is no job on earth more important than being a parent is the mother in me being born and coming to life.

What do you think? Do you love every aspect of being a mother/parent? Is it as difficult for you at times as it is for me?

Looking for great parenting material?
Check these mamas out…
Courtney Defeo blogs at Lil Light O’ Mine She uses truth and humor, grace and love, to navigate her way through motherhood. Check out her site, but be prepared to spend some time as you will keep finding material that you love!

Leanne Penny blogs at Leanne Penny She shares her experience, strength and hope to find joy in the journey. She has an incredible story and you will be better after reading her heart.

Lisa~Jo Baker blogs at The Gypsy Mama She has an extraordinary amount of wisdom that pours out on every page. Her life is not perfect, but she has a unique way of turning trials into triumphs.

The Hands, Feet and Faces of Hope

Never underestimate the power of hope. The potential that it gives the helpless, the change in perspective that it gives the skeptic, the restoration it provides for the lost.

Hope does not come dressed in riches, it comes dressed in willingness to use what one has, to do what one can.

There is hope. It has a face and a name. It has breath and a heartbeat. It has a future because someone like you said, “Why not me? Why not now?
So today I ask you, “What are you waiting for?”Yesterday’s post was an introduction into the world of a mother and a husband who had a vision, made a plan, asked for help and are changing lives for eternity. Asher will be giving birth in October to her and Drü’s third child and a few short months after, they will move their family of five to Africa. Can you even imagine?! I can’t. I wouldn’t. But they can and they are. “Why?” is what you may be asking. It’s what I wanted to know. So I asked.

Q: At what moment did you realize that God was calling you to move to Africa? Was it a moment of terror, excitement or a little bit of both?
A: “It was a growth process and not a sudden “ah-ha!” moment. After visiting several times a year, we realized that with coming and going we could only monitor the growth and success of Sole Hope so far. We knew we needed someone on the ground there who knew the vision of Sole Hope, who we trusted and who was like-minded. We started looking for people to move to Africa to really run our program, especially the first few foundational years.

As no one was rising to the plate to accept this low paying, unclear job in a third world country-we realized we were being called, softly, and nudged but kept ignoring it.  During this time though we were able to grow our relationship as a family, gain clearer understanding of the direction of Sole Hope, and really get to know the community of people we would be going to live and work with, and more of the realities of the problem we would be facing-jiggers.

Of course this was and is scary…we are being called onto a battle ground. There will be sacrifice, suffering and trials.  But we are confident that God will complete a good work in and through us with only His power. There is also excitement as we do love Africa, and this is a new adventure like none we have ever taken before as a family!

Q: Asher, will you deliver your third child in the states? Are you apprehensive about taking a newborn to a third world country? How are your kiddos handling all of the change?
A: “I will deliver our third child in October in the States, and we will move in January. Of course it makes me nervous to take any of my children to a third-world country, but perfect love casts out fear, and I have to hand that over daily to the Lord. We feel this is where he is calling us, so we need to be faithful. It is a good test of faith when you get your children involved. Our two oldest are handling this transition very differently. The oldest is excited, and a bit apprehensive, and the youngest really would be just fine with staying in Asheville the rest of his life.” 

Q: What is your biggest area of need right now? How can we help?
A: “We always need people to keep our family and Sole Hope in their prayers! We don’t take that lightly and are so grateful when people commit to pray for us. Our family raises our own support, just like a missionary would to live and work in Africa. We need people who will come along side our family and support us financially.”

Q: What sets you apart from other organizations ministering in Africa?
A: “We don’t have a tract we hand out, or a church we are affiliated with. We do however have many believers that hold us accountable and check in with us regularly. We are Christians who take very seriously listening to the Lord and following his call on our life. We believe Sole Hope was something the Lord laid on my heart (Asher). We start sharing the Lord by building relationships and letting people get to know us and why we are doing this [Sole Hope].”  

Q: Have you set a timeline for how long you will stay?
A:We know we will be there at least a year.”

Q: How can we keep up with you while you are there?
A: “Check the Sole Hope blog regularly!”

Q: If there was one thing on your “Dreaming BIG” list that you would like to see happen, what would it be?
A: “To eradicate jiggers from an entire village/slum area in a sustainable way.”

Q: Can others bring teams over to help with your mission?
A: “YES! We will have 5 planned trips during 2013 and we are open to organizing small group trips throughout the year as well.

Q: Will there be a mailing address where we can send fun packages to you and the kiddos? 🙂
A: “We would LOVE that!  We will need to get you an address. For right now packages and letters can go to our office in Asheville and be brought with the next team.”
Sole Hope
P.O. Box 1492,
Asheville, NC 28802
Sole Hope
2 Wall St. Ste. 114
Asheville, NC 28801

Did I miss anything? Are you as moved as I was by the courage of this little family with big faith? Want to ask them more questions, comment on their work or encourage them on their journey? Leave a comment here or contact them directly. You won’t regret immersing yourself in this cause with these people. No matter the depth of involvement. It all matters.Will you commit to telling at least two people about Sole Hope? I’m going to make it easy for you. Here is a downloadable PDF Sole Hope Reference Card that will attach perfectly to email or print. So tell me, “What are you waiting for? Now is the right time.”

*all media was taken from the Sole Hope Facebook page. Go check it out. And while you’re there, click the “Like” button.
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What does Hope look like?

I am so excited to be sharing this story with my readers. It is one that has been on my heart since I first discovered it.

Many of you have heard of Sole Hope. For those of you who haven’t, I would like to introduce them to you today.

This is not a ploy to get your money. It is a conversation starter to make you aware of what is happening, maybe not in our country, but in our world. It is to shed light on something happening to little ones who cannot help themselves. It is in hopes that you will tell others and share what Hope looks like in the form of human beings dedicating their lives to eradicate a seemingly insurmountable problem.
The following video contains graphic images that may be disturbing to some. Please use discretion when viewing and allowing young children to view.

The first time I saw this video it made me want to know more. I had never even heard of jiggers. I read everything I could on the Sole Hope website and blog. I have to be completely honest, I became physically sick while reading and watching what these children are enduring day in and day out because they lack something that I often always take for granted. Shoes.

Asher, as a wife and mother of two (with a third on the way), decided she couldn’t wait for “someone else” to step in. She had to take action. That is how Sole Hope was born. One woman who had a choice either to ignore what she had seen or follow a calling to be a world changer.

I know for me personally, I don’t realize what my feet, or any part of my body for that matter, does until I can’t use it. Many of the children with jiggers in their feet are completely immobilized and confined to their home. Many don’t have parents or caregivers. Many will die.

This is a precious one whose foot is infested with jiggers. Gross right?! I beg you not to look away. This is about the size of one of my children’s feet. If this was my child, it never would have gotten to this point. I would have taken him to the pediatrician long before it was this bad. They do not have that option.

Now rewind. What if this child was wearing shoes. Not the latest athletic shoe, just enough of a shoe to act as a barrier between them and this parasite? What if this preventable affliction was expunged completely? What if you were part of that? What if you didn’t dismiss it with the thought, “Someone else will do it.” or “I already have my charities mapped out for the year.” Please hear me when I say that this is about so much more than money.

Of course they need financial support, but there are also many other ways that you can step in and make a difference in a huge way.

One way is by being a Sole Hope Ambassador in your area. Sole Hope Ambassadors are people who are pumped about Sole Hope and want to help spread awareness in their own community. This is a volunteer opportunity with perks. If you are interested and want more information click here.

Another way is by featuring these adorable shoes in your store, online, or by purchasing them for the favorite little ones in your life. When people ask you what they are (and they will), be ready to tell them.

You can also host a shoe cutting party. For more information, email Info@solehope.com or call 855.516.4673.

I know this is a lot of information. In an effort to allow you time to process what you have read and seen, we will continue the discussion tomorrow with a Q&A from myself, Asher and Drü. I asked the questions I most wanted to know and thought that you too would want to know. Questions like, “What sets you a part from every other organization with a heart for Africa?

Make sure you come back tomorrow for the rest of the story and a downloadable PDF with useful information.

“These feet are waiting for me…and that keeps me moving on the days when I feel tired and don’t want to do much.” ~ Asher

*all media was taken from the Sole Hope Facebook page. Go check it out. And while you’re there, click the “Like” button.
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